Bullying in the Church

Does Jesus love bullies?

As a parent of four, I regularly encounter bullying. No, my kids aren’t getting abused at school. But we often receive messages from educators teaching us how to recognize bullying.

We have become a vigilent and well informed. society. We no longer tolerate bullying at school or the workplace.

But what about bullying at church?

Hardly anyone talks about this – unless it’s sexual abuse, in which case it’ll make the front page. But there are many other types of bullying.

Over the years, I’ve heard hundreds of stories from readers and church leaders. You wouldn’t believe the damage done to people in the name of God.

Jesus is not a bully and his church ought to be a safe place. But religion turns people into bullies. (By religion I am referring to that pseudo-spiritual system of self-improvement that Jesus condemned.)

Bullying is using power to control, harm, or intimidate others, which sounds a lot like what religion does all the time. In essence, religion is a system to control and coerce people through intimidation and manipulation.

Which makes religion pretty stinkin’ evil.

So why aren’t we talking about this?

If we are to stand up for the weak (Ps 82:3-4), doesn’t that mean standing up to bullies wherever they are found?

My desire is not to name and shame anyone (and I won’t publish comments that do), but to start a conversation about bullying behavior.

I suspect a lot of church bullying is unintentional. With the best of intentions I have bullied people from the pulpit. This was wrong. Forgive me. My only excuse is I didn’t know I was doing it. Which is why we’re here.

My purpose is not to hurt anyone but to identify hurtful behaviors so that all may be free and Jesus may be glorified. If you have come looking for stones to throw, you are in the wrong place.

But if you want to be forewarned about the types of bullying in the church, read on.

Bullying behaviors in the church

Below is an incomplete list of 30+ ways we use power to harm others in the church. In the comments below, let me know what I missed.

A: Bullying from the pulpit

  1. Preaching law (which condemns and inflames sin (1 Cor 15:56, 2 Cor 3:9)
  2. Lording it over others (1 Peter 5:3). “Obey the man of God!”
  3. Terrorizing people. “God is mad at you. He hates you.”
  4. Making threats: “If you’re not careful, Jesus will blot out your name.”
  5. Dispensing condemnation: “You’re not doing enough. Receive some guilt.”
  6. Withholding communion from those who need it. “Communion is for the worthy.”
  7. Naming and shaming publicly: “Let’s see who hasn’t paid their tithes this month”
  8. Prostituting the love of God. “God loves you more if you obey.”
  9. Extortion: “If you don’t tithe, God will take it off you in doctors’ bills.”
  10. Pressuring people to get with the program. “If you’re not serving you’re not part of us.”
  11. Shutting down dialogue prematurely. “I’ve heard enough. I’m pulling rank.”
  12. Yelling, threats of violence.
  13. Attacking those with a different revelation. “False teacher. Heretic. Burn ‘em all!”
  14. Cultivating a “do not ask questions” environment. “Good soldiers do what they’re told.”
  15. Passing off punishment as discipline. “You must pay for your sin!”

B: Bullying from the flock

  1. Making threats. “Preach on that again and my family will leave.”
  2. Slander and gossip. “I heard Pastor Jim got fired because of inappropriate conduct.”
  3. Constant personal criticism. “He’s useless. He’s not called to be a pastor.”
  4. Crushing leaders with unreasonable expectations. “I’m not being fed.” “He hasn’t grown the church.”
  5. Unfair comparisons. “He doesn’t preach as well as the last guy.”
  6. Baseless accusations. “I got cancer because you don’t preach from the KJV.”

C: Bullying in the fellowship

  1. Name-calling: “You’re a Judas.” “You’re Jezebel.”
  2. Threatening to expose sin. “I’ll tell the pastor your dirty secret!”
  3. Damaging someone’s reputation: “She won’t be wearing white on her wedding day.”
  4. Looking down on someone on account of their youth (1 Tim 4:12). “What do you know? You’re just a kid.”
  5. Looking down on someone on account of their gender: “Woman, submit and do what you’re told.”
  6. Looking down on someone on account of their education. “Have you been to seminary? Then be quiet.”
  7. Promoting sin (which corrupts and enslaves): “In this church we’re free to do A, B, and C.”
  8. Discrimination: “Our church/denomination is the best. The others are stupid.”
  9. Marginalizing people on account of their past: “Divorced? You’re a sinner!
  10. Demeaning those who are suffering: “If you had faith you’d toss those pills.”
  11. Slander: “She’s sick? She must be a sinning.”

A church that is subject to bullying will be depressed, weak, and unfruitful. If you are part of such a church, your choices are either confrontation or departure.

But before you do anything, pray for grace. If you’ve been bullied, look to Jesus your Healer. Be better, not bitter.

And pray for wisdom. I know some will criticize me for not standing up sufficiently for victim’s rights, but often bullies are victims themselves. They need healing too. So pray for those who’ve hurt you (Matt 5:44).

And don’t forget to check the log in your own eye, for we are all broken people. We all need grace.

The tragedy is that religion brings out the worst in us. Religion makes us ugly.

But the good news is that Jesus loves us at our worst and his love changes us. Just look at what he did to that bully of bullies Saul. He turned him into the Apostle of Grace!

Jesus loves all of us. He loves bullies and their victims.

By his grace we can be free.


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92 Comments on Bullying in the Church

  1. Thank you. : )

  2. But, Paul, Parenting is the same thing. We manipulate/control our kids in different ways to get them to behave the way we want to when they are young (spanking, yelling, rewards systems, emotional manipulation, demerit systems, time outs, etc.) We preach our law (whatever it may be) to them over and over until it time for them to be free from us. Then when they are adults, we let them go. They key word would be the definition of submission. Under Christ, we get to know who we let control us. Bullying is word that incites victimhood. There is already enough infighting in Christianity today. But under Christ, we are not victims. We can still love legalistic people, and even choose to go to a church that we agree to disagree with on some points.

    • tonycutty // June 3, 2017 at 8:49 am // Reply

      We can. That’s what’s called ‘bearing with one another in love’. But some are not emotionally mature enough to be able to do that. And some people see bullying and run a mile, from previous hurts. The key is, of course, to be secure enough in our faith to not let bullying affect us. Unless it’s someone else being bullied, in which case I’m sorry but I’d step in somewhat decisively 😉

    • Yeah, my thoughts as I read the article. I was parented that way and I parent that way. I’m not sure how to change.

      • What made sense to me is that God is interested in my behavior right now only in that it reflects my heart. He is vastly more interested in the person that he is trying to turn me into. That’s a completely different dynamic than focusing on the cessation of a particular bad behavior at a particular moment.

        I try to take the same approach with my kids. I deal with their behavior mostly in terms of what I want them to become, rather than carrots and sticks to get the behavior I want, it’s more about working with them to train them to go the right way.

      • Richard F // June 29, 2017 at 6:57 am //

        Bravo! In fact I would go further. God is not only not primarily concerned with our behavior. He is not even primarily concerned with our motives (after all he can and has promised to put a new heart within us – it is not even a matter of him ‘trying’) He is concerned with openness or frankness or transparency. I would say he is concerned with his relationship with us, which is so true but also so open to ambiguity.

        He knows our sins. He wants us to know our sins. Then he wants us to know that he knows our sins. He also wants us to know that he forgives us, loves us, and is excited to have us as a bride for his son. And of course the more we look forward with equal excitement to that, the more the sin that entangles falls away; in this sense, where we are going is more important than where we have come from. And that is why we are not led into licence. Of course we trust the historically reported Cross for us, but we do not trust the invisible Spirit to do His work in us. That is why we get nervous and invoke the law. And of course the law brings forth lawlessness in sinful man. And yes, we remain sinful even while saved (simul iustus simul peccator, for those who know their Luther)

      • Love, guidance and making boundaries work. You won’t always get it right, but you keep trying. Today there are books out there that you can read on parenting. They have good ideas. I learn’t a lot from scripture training days on how to handle children. They tools help you to form good parenting skills. Teaching children is repetitive teaching, but when they leave the nest it comes to them, “What did Mum do”. What you sew comes back at you in old age – love & direction or dictatorship & discipline.

  3. Roxanne Smith // June 1, 2017 at 1:42 am // Reply

    One controlling tactic that some pastors employ is to “correct” via the sermon, someone who dares to share a different experience with him. I left a church when I finally got up the courage to share privately with the pastor that I believed that all the gifts of the Spirit are in operation today and that I spoke in tongues. Two days later, he said over the pulpit that he felt he needed to warn the congregation about continuationism, particularly about tongues, insinuating it was demonic. I grieve for the congregation there, that they won’t be open to the fullness of what we have been given. The “We do this, we don’t do that” mentality is so insidious. And it’s nearly impossible these days to find a place to fellowship where law isn’t mixed in with grace.

    • Oh yeah, that’s a doozie. Been there, done that. As a pastor I aspired to be “a lion in the pulpit, but a lamb face to face,” but that only masked my cowardly desire to avoid interpersonal confrontation. Thanks for sharing, Roxanne.

      • Adriaan Hattingh // June 1, 2017 at 6:58 pm //

        Wow Paul, it takes a lion to admit that. I grieve for pastors who really has a heart for God and people but are at the same time living in fear for interpersonal confrontation. I’m so glad you escaped! 🙂 Blessings, Adriaan.

    • Good point Roxanne! In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul outlines how the gifts of the Spirit were to be used in an evangelistic church setting, where the Spirit revealed the secrets of strangers coming into the church in a way that would lead them to confess that God was at work among them. Paul ENCOURAGED people to pray for the gift of Prophecy that would enable them to do this! Given this capability, would not the secret sins (and bullying behavior!) of the leadership and congregation be in danger of being revealed?

      I do not believe that Speaking in Tongues is a *required* sign of receiving the Holy Spirit, but I have experienced it personally, and see it as a “sign of assurance” to aid one’s faith when the bullies attempt to “gaslight” their victim in the process of bringing them into bondage. I would agree with Paul that *threatening* to leave is bullying behavior, but leaving (and having a biblical answer when someone asks why you left) under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is not bullying.

  4. l’ve never associated a lot of this with bullying, but it certainly is.

  5. Jesus bullied no one. He was always FOR the bullied and the guilty (woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman, etc).

  6. “unless it’s sexual abuse, in which case it’ll make the front page.” Dear Paul, unfortunately this is not the case. Clergy sexual abuse is all too rife in our churches, I am a victim of it. Unfortunately, because we are adults, it is termed an affair and we are generally deemed guilty for seducing this man of God.. Not many people will take our word over that of their beloved, trusted pastor. Those woman who have spoke out are usually victimised by the church and end up leaving the church while the perpetrator carries on is merry way. For anyone who finds this hard to believe, the internet has a lot of information. If you are interested, I can send you a link to a useful website. Funny, I never thought of it as bullying but it certainly is. Thank goodness for God’s healing that brought me freedom.
    I love your posts and learn so much. I just find it so difficult to unlearn the carrots and sticks but I am making headway. Thank you.

    • I apologize, Colleen. I did not mean to offend you or any victims of sexual abuse. The abuse of power in this manner is hugely damaging, and I certainly do not want to minimize the harm of this type of bullying. My point, which I clearly didn’t hit, was that there are other types of bullying that do not receive coverage in the media. Preaching law won’t make the paper, but it is a kind of bullying.

      • Colleen // June 1, 2017 at 10:45 pm //

        Dear Paul
        Please don’t apologize, you didn’t offend me at all. I was just pointing out that this type of bullying doesn’t make the front papers, that is why it is important to raise awareness wherever possible.

    • Cecilia Lim // June 3, 2017 at 11:38 am // Reply

      hi, i read your post, please send me the link so I could help out a friend who is now being traumatized by some church members and even leaders, blaming her for her behavior as one of the factor that the Pastor been enticed with.

      • Colleen // June 6, 2017 at 1:33 am //

        Dear Cecelia

        I am so sorry to hear this. Your friend must believe that she is not to blame. You can email me at colleen@vow.org.za and I will give you the necessary details.


  7. Kathy Miller // June 1, 2017 at 3:43 am // Reply

    I visited a small church in Northern Florida with a friend. It was communion time the pastor walked over to me and asked me not to take communion with them. I respected his wishes and said nothing. The woman behind me was so mad and upset with him that she did not take communion. This saddened my heart. He did not realize the impact it had on those in his small congregation. I did know the Lord as Savior but he never asked. We who are Born Again are all a part of the Big Family of God. We should embrace other believers welcome them in and praise God that the body of Christ is all over the world.

  8. Here’s yet another form of bullying. A family member’s very large denominational church recently hired a new senior pastor. Within only a few weeks they had to implement a new practice of having an assigned staff person read every email this newbie sent to any other staff person, because he was bullying people via email–not to mention losing his temper at meetings. Three decades-long staff members soon quit. And within months he (and a young female staff member) also resigned. Now they’re back to the drawing board to search for yet another senior pastor. Two things come to mind. The first is that most churches are more like corporations with CEOs who, (from a few I’ve seen in person,) have more of a boss/employee/submission relationship with the rest of their staff than a co-shepherding kind of fellowship going on. Secondly I wonder how many sheep can one shepherd really shepherd? And did God ever envision or intend for sheep to attend these behemoth corporate gatherings? Aside from the possible ego trip some pastors may be on, could it be that they are trying to do something that God has given no grace for?

    • I have been thinking about that term “shepherd” lately. JESUS is the only shepherd! That is one problem of some pastors/priests etc. thinking that they are the shepherds of the sheep. Jesus alone is the shepherd. Peter was told to feed Jesus’ sheep, not be their shepherd. Jesus alone can shepherd our souls.

  9. Rowan Durward // June 1, 2017 at 7:15 am // Reply

    Thank you so much Paul. Such a good explanation of religion too.

  10. Thank you as always Paul. You are a breath of fresh air to our fellow Christians of Grace. From the very beginning of a persons Christian journey they are for some reason bullied by all those feeling “mature” in the word. Starting initially to read the Bible as a defensive weapon for Bible thumpers, it became a habit to read it every day. Not to get smarter necessarily, but because in reading the Bible I found it important for me alone, to put on God’s armor everyday. After years of doing so I couldn’t help but wonder why a God so wonderful, so consistent and so loving, is questioned about the intent of His words in the so called book of truth. Being the one and only God and having only one “book of truth” I find difficulty understanding the need for the hundreds of denominations of Christianity. In most, if imperfection exists, you’re hell bound for certain. If a person tries to combat that with scripture of grace, you immediately become a castaway and a threat to those who previously claimed to love you. It certainly brings an inner peace when you finally realize how Jesus operates according to Him verified through His word; rather than the words of others. Thanks again Paul. Keep up the great work..

    • tonycutty // June 3, 2017 at 8:30 pm // Reply

      “From the very beginning of a persons Christian journey they are for some reason bullied by all those feeling “mature” in the word.” … and so, the new life is rapidly placed under a thick blanket of rules, regulations and ‘expectations’. Maybe this is what Jesus was talking about in the Parable of the Sower, for the seed that fell on the path? That didn’t get chance to take root properly?

  11. Hi Paul,

    I used to attend a church where the pastor was constantly pressuring people to get with the program.

    “If you’re not serving you’re not part of us.”
    “If the seat next to you is empty then raise your hand. Make sure you bring someone to fill that seat next time.”

    There seemed to be more emphasis on what the sheep should be doing to grow the church than what the church was feeding the sheep. Let’s just say they ended up with a couple more empty seats.


  12. Oh, yes. Sadly bullying is alive and well. It’s tragic too, that when this is happening,how people will stay in a place as they are to scared to leave. They don’t dare stand up to it.

    A tragedy in the body.

    If it was for freedom that Jesus died….sigh…

  13. May God help us all. Thank you pastor

  14. One of the bullying methods I’ve seen used is to degrade Christians from seeing themselves as God’s Sons to seeing themselves as servants, so as to drag them back under obligations in the Mosaic Law from which they were freed by the Cross and the Spirit. it is a variant of the “self abasement” doctrine taught by the Colossian heretics, and is implied every time someone insists “You must serve others!” I have seen it used in one of the comments in the tithing post, and have been mulling over possible responses to that comment. (it is possible to be charitable without a slave mentality, but the whole point of the bullying is to create the slave mentality, with “servanthood” as the means to that end).

    Another method is to attack the validity of the victim’s perception of the leadings of the Holy Spirit. The bully tries to cast doubt on the incompetence of the victim in hearing what The spirit is saying, or imputes the warnings to the existence of “hidden/secret sin”. This is especially the case when the Holy Spirit is warning the victim of the bullying behavior!

  15. Look, if people don’t know that they are bullying, which many don’t and others very well do; then fair enough; God loves to educate and show people – his people, a better way; but there is a clause, if the person is willing. So….the Holy Spirit will lead his blood wash saints to better, without condemnation. There is a clause, if they are willing. Some saints found out they were manipulative but will say for example, I’m not changing now, I should have been told this before. This is who I am etc. I know some that have changed because they realised and some that have not, even thou they realised their mistake and we all make them. It’s up to the individual to change, Christ is still the same, yesterday, today and forever, he won’t force.

  16. Ooops, when I say it’s up to the individual, they cannot change, but Christ in them can and so they have to trust the Lord to do it via the Holy Spirit.

  17. Or using the statment when someone disagree with you: “This is not me saying it, it is God saying it!” Bible verses like “God is not mocked!” could also be used out of context to cause fear.

  18. Mark Cain // June 2, 2017 at 1:30 am // Reply

    Here are a few you missed:
    1. The Cats Paw: special guest speaker to bring ‘correction’
    2. Touch NOT Gods anointed: no argument or discussion this is settled in heaven
    3. Self appointed Apostle/Prophet ‘God gave me a word for the you/church’ (comes from both pulpit and congregation): using prophecy to shut down opposition (I believe in prophecy don’t get me wrong, but that is nothing but witchcraft!)

    I get why these exist, but what is the solution in a corporate environment? If you have 10 people you will have 15 opinions! How do you separate the social media mentality discussion from the real ‘come let us reason together’ discussion.

    As always Paul, thanks for your hard work to bring us encouragement!

    • Thanks Mark, good examples. I hadn’t heard of the label “Cat’s Paw.” As to the solution – I can’t help but note that the vast majority of families survive without bullying. Perhaps we should start thinking of the church as a family instead of a business or platoon. Maybe that would help. Just a thought.

  19. Great article Paul! I love it – church, the bully-free zone!!!

    I’m using that one!

  20. Thank you Paul for bringing up this subject. I’m guilty of many in the list either in word or in deeds and definitely in thoughts.

    A preacher once said that, “We judge others by their action and we judge ourselves by our intention” – only GOD sees the heart. It reminds me of prophet Jonah who saw the Nineveh by their evil doings but GOD saw them as people who don’t even know their right hand from their left. I like the part you mentioned how LORD JESUS turned the bully of bullies Saul into the Apostle of GRACE. I heard many testimonies how GOD turned people of the ‘extreme religion’ into great evangelist among their tribes; many good testimonies on YouTube.

  21. Grandma Ja // June 2, 2017 at 5:01 am // Reply

    Its been my experience in a church I used to attend where the pastor uses fear to manipulate the flock. He would tell us that we were lukewarm and God was going to vomit us. Ironically, he really never specified what we were doing wrong to deserve that. Maybe we werent serving or giving enough, I’m not sure? I left that church because I’m not going to waste my time or gas to attend and leave there feeling like I’ve been beaten with a big stick! Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep, not beat them. This church did not believe we are eternally secure, and was always threatening us that our salvation could be lost, which is a faith killer in itself! How are we expected to trust God for our salvation if we believe in a moments notice he’s going to snatch it away from us! Churches should seriously take a close look at what they preach, because in many cases, they can cause more harm than good.
    Thank you Paul for bringing these issues into the light. Be blessed!

    • Ah, the ol’ lukewarm stick. Has there ever been a more abused and abusive metaphor?

    • tonycutty // June 3, 2017 at 9:08 am // Reply

      The bottom line for these people is that if our salvation is secure, then they can not use fear to bully us. An so they claim that our salvation is not secure. Predictable and pathetic.

  22. Richard F // June 2, 2017 at 5:02 am // Reply

    Paul, you have given us lots of good examples which we all should recognise although not necessarily at the time.

    The most interesting one is ‘law preaching’ and I agree with you. But many won’t.agree, maintaining that law preaching is an essential part of preaching the whole counsel of God

    Our law preaching – when used to correct behaviour – is a symptom of a deeper problem; that of failing to trust the Holy Spirit to convict and transform (so we decide to take that on ourselves). We might have a good Christology but a very withered pneumatology. Yet the Holy Spirit is the Person sent by Jesus while He is away.


  23. Adriaan Hattingh // June 2, 2017 at 5:38 pm // Reply

    The 11th commandment (tithing) – Apart from all the other issues there are two that really irks me. 1. Telling people that are struggling to make ends meet that God cannot bless them unless they tithe. 2. Keeping record of tithers (the little envelope and back office software way) and telling those in need, who do not tithe, that they do not qualify for church assistance.

    • I know churches that publicly name and shame those who are delinquent in paying tithes forcing cash-strapped families to borrow from loan sharks. I am not joking.

      • Adriaan Hattingh // June 2, 2017 at 11:04 pm //

        Unbelievable!! 😦

      • Grandma Ja // June 3, 2017 at 1:39 am //

        How sad the way people are manipulated for the “tithe”! What about pastors who misuse the verses in Malachi and tell people that they are ” robbing God” and if they don’t tithe they are ” cursed with a curse”! Under the old testament law of tithing, it was NEVER about money. It was about food…crops & agriculture. I’ve often wondered what my old pastor would have done if I had shown up at the front door of the church with a truckload of grain and dumped it in the lobby! I’m sure the look on his face would have been priceless! Just goes to show how greed has taken over the church!

      • 😲

      • tonycutty // June 22, 2017 at 11:10 pm //

        I have to say that, in these cases, I wonder what happened to Jesus’s injunction to ‘not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing’. Giving is supposed to be secret else you have already received your reward, by seeing men pleased by your giving. Yet another verse conveniently ignored by the ripoff merchants.

  24. Adriaan Hattingh // June 2, 2017 at 11:42 pm // Reply

    The, what I call, Christian caste system, i.e. separate groups to “minister to you at your level”. I get having separate children’s church for instance. Dividing members into groups according to their marital status, age etc. is something else. For example divorcees are forced, sorry I meant to say asked, to join the singles ministry to keep them separate from the “normal” adults.

    The other one is where the pastor have obvious favorite members based on what they do for or give to the church.

  25. Emmanuel Stella // June 3, 2017 at 4:05 am // Reply

    Just wow! thanks Pastor.

  26. Grandma Ja // June 3, 2017 at 7:58 am // Reply

    Paul, I’m trying to print this post on bullying to give to someone that doesn’t have a computer or smartphone. Whenever I try to print, it wants to print everything including comments. Is there any way to print just the article that you know of? Thanks in advance for your help.

    • You could try cutting and pasting into a document.

      • Grandma Ja // June 4, 2017 at 2:07 am //

        I tried to cut & paste, but it doesn’t allow me to copy the picture. Is the picture available somewhere else on your website where I can download it?

    • You can also tell it to print only the pages you want. The article is probably like pages 1 and 2, so just ask to print those.

  27. tonycutty // June 3, 2017 at 8:46 am // Reply

    I noticed that the bullying tactics of ‘Pointing Out Others’ Sin’ and ‘Fruit Inspection’ were missing. Should we add them to the list? 😉

    • And stone-throwing – bullying at its Biblical worst.

    • As a young believer in the 70’s I remember the ‘ We are not called to judge others, but we are certainly called to be ‘fruit inspectors’ line was a common one. Sad to think of it now, but the joy of knowing God accepted you just as you were soon disappeared as you realised you had to produce some ‘acceptable’ fruit, to be accepted in the Beloved! Thank God for preachers of Grace.

  28. I once attended a church where the pastor asked all those in the womens’ group to stand up. Then those who were part of the camp committee. Then those involved in some other area of service in the church. It continued until just my husband and I were left seated. I felt so humiliated and embarrassed! Eventually we left the church and I am not sorry.

  29. My pastor tells us that it is impossible to live the Christian life if you are not part of a “small group.” So after numerous invitations I joined a small group. Well, as an introvert and an avid reader of theology, I truly believe my books have drawn me closer to God than any “small group” participation. And I wish they’d stop hounding people to join.

    • Ugh, small groups are torture to me., too. Sitting on some family’s couch, listening to everyone’s flowery personal prayer requests, feeling no liberty to pour out my heart to God there. The prayers are petitions for people I’ve never heard of, but they all know, being in the same family. If we had a Bible study, I’d probably like it. But it’s singing for a half hour, praying one by one for 45 minutes, then eating. I did suggest we do a Bible study, but they apparently don’t want to make any changes. I’ve always been an introvert and I like interacting in a group where we learn, but this style group is torture to me.

    • tonycutty // June 4, 2017 at 9:52 pm // Reply

      Irrespective of what your pastor says, we all seek – and experience – God in our own way. What’s good for one isn’t always good for another. There is no right-or-wrong answer, except to say that forcing someone to participate in something against their will is wrong. My rule-of-thumb comes from John 5:19 – I always do what I see the Father doing. If what you see Father doing involves getting into a house group, go for it. If He’s doing something else, go for that instead. The freedom in Christ is yours to use as you will. And Father will not let you fall.

    • Which words of Jesus is your pastor quoting?!!

  30. Brilliant. Balanced and clear. No doubt we’ve all been perpetrators and victims.
    Thank you!

  31. This post brings back a few memories that I’d rather forget:

    1) “God told me that you shouldn’t… (in this case, my classmates had selected me to provide the invocation at our Bible School graduation). I backed down, because I sure didn’t want to go against what God told this leader. Some time later, after relaying the conversation to a wise friend, he said “I would’ve responded ‘Well, God didn’t tell ME that!’”

    2) “If you’re not witnessing, you’re not fulfilling the Great Commission! Sign up for our ‘How to Share Your Faith’ class before you go home today!” I always felt guilty and condemned over this one. Then I started reading and meditating on God’s Word and, surprise! I couldn’t STOP telling people about Jesus!

    3) “I really have to question a person’s salvation if they smoke.” Told to me by a pastor who was so fat he had his clothes made by Omar the Tentmaker.

    4) After years of trying to quit smoking on my own power, I mentioned to a law-loving friend that I was going to give up trying and just focus on God’s Word. His comment to me: “THAT’S straight out of the pit!” Not long after putting my plan into practice, I woke up one morning and had zero desire for a cigarette. That was about 7 years ago.

    “”Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

  32. Great post, Paul. Also, have seen girls bullied in the church because of how they were dressed.

  33. richard elson // June 6, 2017 at 11:00 pm // Reply

    Control the people 101
    1. Create an “Us and Them” culture.
    2. Get everyone to do and say very specific but very simple things when you gather together.
    I.e standing/sitting/repeating phrases
    3. Reward compliant behaviour.
    4. Create a hierarchical system and call it “Family”
    5. Honour those who agree with you
    6.Ridicule and marginalize those who don’t match the cookie cutter “family member”, be especially vigilant against free thinkers.
    7. AcknowledgeI the “Wisdom” of all those who mindlessly do what you tell them.
    8. Promote and “deputize” those who look/speak/stand/dress/eat/drink just like you
    9. Promote to “leader” those willing to enforce the unspoken/unwritten culture.
    10. Repeat 1st step
    Now you have Standard Operating Procedures for your own Jesus franchise. . .and by the way, we don’t say bullying we say discipline.

    • Whew! A lot of thought went into this. Thanks Richard.

      • Roxanne Smith // June 7, 2017 at 8:12 am //

        We all must stand, now take your seat, Now turn to your neighbor and say… It’s time we heard a joke or two Some banter, some clichè

        He points-we have a visitor (all eyes now turn on me) Stand up and introduce yourself I stammer, cringingly

        The worship team is tuning up The singing lasts an hour More top ten Christian radio Devoid of grace or power

        A hymn! They’ve changed the melody… An added chorus, too The sound reverberates so loud I need it to be through

        To my relief, the sermon starts We open to one verse One verse used as a springboard And then we are immersed

        In politics or building funds Or quotes from someone’s blog Mixing law and grace again My brain is in a fog

        We file downstairs for fellowship Some coffee and a bite The women form their cliques again And who turned off the light?

        From raising Holy hands in prayer The scene is now mundane We speak of anything but God This whole thing seems insane

        I cry at home, and pace the floor I ask”How can this be?” To go to church, looking for life And failing dismally

        Church in America, wake up! And see this is a game And why am I complaining, When I have myself to blame?



    • Love it! the ‘Jesus franchise’! Oh, also control the people

      a. repeated calls for unity
      b. make the text say anything you want by…
      c. being selective about which texts to preach on, though…
      d. probably best to preach on topics (tithing) than on scripture
      e. allow only ‘self-orthodox’ books onto the bookstall (especially those on tithing)
      f. actively turn away anyone who might have their own questions
      g. keep tabs on people, under the guise of ‘wondering if I should be praying for them’
      h. bring in pastor lookalikes who will be heavy on tithing
      i. make it clear that ongoing grace is conditional (on tithing)
      j. make it clear that, as pastor, you were not just called by the church but by God

      and anything else you can find from the middle ages in Europe that might be made relevant – magic even?!

      • A lot of what you say is true. How do you preach those scriptures that say what you say? I believe the gospel is loaded with glad tidings and good news, just like E2R! Preaching positive in Christ is a good antidote.

  34. Don’t be hard on yourself Roxanne. You are amongst many who are looking for a church where you truly get fed spiritually. I am tired of playing church. I started going to a new one that many rave about but I find it more of a social club. I crave annointed praise and worship, but as usual it is mostly performance based. Every function I go to, I pray for Holy Spirit to tell me if there is any point in going. If I can bless someone else then it is all worth it, but if that isn’t happening and I am not getting blessed either then I would rather stay home. I mostly get involved in prayer groups and people come to my home for ministry. I go to a praise and worship group of ladies once a month. It is a two hour drive but worth every minute. We praise in the Spirit for about 2 hours. take communion together and lots of good food and fellowship. When we praise, the glory of God just fills the room and we bask in His beautiful presence. Several of the women in my prayer groups have asked to come and they love it.
    I get a lot of spiritual uplift watching people like Bill Winston. Amazing grace and faith teacher! Escape to Reality has been a wonderful lifeline!. Hang in there, change is coming ! We just have to let Holy Spirit back into our meetings.

  35. Paul, the church I am attending just went through about 8 months of heartbreaking events. It is hard for me to understand how a pastor can be so “effective” from the pulpit but hide in the shadows of infidelity when not in the pulpit. The church was growing with new members, new believers, the youth group was exploding. We were planning on expanding. Then during a revival his “out of the pulpit” lifestyle was exposed. He never denied, never stepped foot back in the church, never apologized, and to my knowledge never repented. He just moved on – to another church. My church has struggled. Our hearts have been broken. The church has lost members, and get this, some going to his new church. Although bullying may not be the issue, we have been beaten up. I question how a person can so blatantly proclaim the gospel of Christ and not be in fear of God’s wrath. And I wonder why God allows someone to continue this way of life.

  36. Good stuff!

  37. I know from historical and scientific evidence that Christ rose from the dead. However, since I was bullied in the Church up to the point of suicide, I’ll have no part of Christianity.

    Gene Simmons of Kiss was more concerned about me than was my own pastor. I have 350 heavy metal albums for a reason. They are actually more credible than the Bible.

  38. Gene is who is who he is, and I think much of the reason why he is is due to how he grew up. Poverty really sets you up for a lifetime of extremism.

  39. Jim, dear fellow.

    I sympathize whole-heartedly with your disillusionment. I have been there, to hospital too

    But it is like saying ‘is electricity good or bad?’. Well, it depends on whether someone is using it to run hospitals or torture chambers.

    So too with churches and the many maniacs who run them. I should think Jesus is so sad that He also contemplates suicide. Well, actually He did allow Himself to be strung up to provide a way for ourselves not to. But churches don’t always reflect Him any more than thieves reflect capitalism.

    So by all means have nothing to do with churches – if you simply cannot find any that are worth the name. But why throw Jesus out with the bath water? He died for you.

    Your last sentence is intriguing. Jesus rose from the dead. Doh – so how often does that happen?! And yet Kiss is more credible? Emotionally maybe – but keep one for the head, and one for the heart?

  40. I never experienced this torment. How blasphemous and cruel. Thank you for your transparency. My bullies were my so-called “friends.” They would tease me, spread rumors; they would leave me out of things, and yet, they kept me around because deep-down, I think they knew I was awesome!

  41. Harvey Bingham // September 27, 2017 at 9:49 am // Reply

    Church leadership is made up of bullies. They learn it in seminary – to boss, control and manipulate their members. They get well paid to push the church’s harsh doctrines. Just dare to suggest that all people were REDEEMED at the Cross and brace yourself for a cruel and devastating backlash. Once you know that every person is Heaven-bound whether they’re believers or not – the church wants nothing to do with you. Figure out that God isn’t a segregationist or a bigot and that eternal life is free and unconditional and watch out! They’ll descend on you like a pack of wolves!

  42. “Baseless accusations. “I got cancer because you don’t preach from the KJV.”


  43. This is a really important topic that needs to be talked about more!

  44. Harvey Bingham // October 4, 2017 at 4:31 am // Reply

    To begin with, Christian pastors and leaders are bullies by their very nature. It’s a requirement of the job. If they aren’t stern, obstinate, opinionated and domineering, they simply won’t survive in the suburban or inner city church environment. A set of ‘brass knuckles’ is standard equipment. On the other hand, the gentle, kind, compassionate ones, wind up on some lonely, desolate, foreign missionary field, far from civilization as we know it.

  45. Robert Slominski // October 11, 2017 at 10:30 am // Reply

    It’s in the past now but you said to add to it if you missed some..
    “ you can’t become a member until you’re baptized the way we see fit”
    “ you can’t have input until you’re a member of our church and are totally submerged… pouring or sprinkling just isn’t good enuff”
    Really… it was done. We’ve since moved on and forgiven them.. but boy did we feel rejected. We had went to this church for 3 years and then wanted to be more involved and help.. that was a dark time

  46. If by what you have described as bullying then, our Church are the best. We are told by all means we should obey and be guided by Pastor who is the servant of God, which I find it as Lording it over believers. Also, when we are told to contribute money that pastor has to go for training,every name of the person who has contributed is posted, to see who has and who has not contributed. I see it also kind of bullying. I grieve for pastor and believers who until now have not understood what God`s Grace is.

  47. Nice article!

    On the topic of bullying, how do I deal with the name-calling (even the “fool” part!) of Matthew 23? I’d appreciate if someone talked about it or even wrote an article on it.

  48. I have dealt with these issues my entire life and I don’t know about the rest of you but I find that once people find out that I believe in free Grace theology The Bullying gets rather ridiculous at times. The worst part is I grew up being religiously bullied not only at church but at home definitely… telling a child they’re constantly going to hell and that they are making God unhappy is a horrible thing to do and works on a person’s mind well into adulthood… It destroys your self-esteem and creates depression and effects you even when you realize the truth… In the USA religious bullying is prevalent in the church, the home and our government… and on Facebook😈.. anyone else have their relationship with their parents or children or other close relative completely destroyed by religious bullying that won’t stop to this day?

  49. Thank you!
    We need to forgive to be forgiven.
    My apostol explained that very good “christians are fallen beings full of a lot of filthyness inside and by receiving Jesus they got their oportunity to clean themselves and change. They are , we are not perfect. Thank You Jesus!

  50. In our church fellowship there isthis guy who is in my view scared of God,and he always talks about verses of judgment and I try to explain to him about grace and how we are now free from condemnation .He consider my doctrine as heresy and finally my patience runs out.I think I bullied him by my strong statements and verses that shows him that he is still under the law.He left my group chat and I dont know how to reconcile with him.

    • One tip is prayer. Prayer for reconciliation, prayer for freedom for that person who left the chat.

      Many verses in the Bible talk about praying to God for connection with him and dealing with tough scenarios, including the famous Philippians 4:6.

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